Thursday 29 December 2005

Christmas reading

Happy Christmas and best wishes to all my ChiefTech blog readers! I'm on holiday at the moment and I've taken the opportunity to do a bit of reading, including the following books:

Both books are about the history surrounding the development of two "technologies" that today we take for granted (chronometers for plotting longitude and the Oxford English Dictionary or OED).

Longitude in particular highlights how a mix of politics, bad luck and different perspectives can impact on technology innovation - so good reading for anyone trying to innovate with information technology today. The longitude story continues even today, with the launch of the first European Galileo satellite which they hope will eventually crate an independent GPS service.

The effort of volunteers who contributed to the creation of the OED also reminds me a little of Wikipedia - I wonder how much quicker it would have been to create the first edition if the Internet and tools like wikis had been available to them? BTW You can still help contribute to the OED (an early social technology then?).

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Wednesday 21 December 2005

Visual tag cloud

Care of Anecdote, 10x10 is great almost real-time information visualisation of the top 100 keywords in the world news (based on analysis of RSS feeds from Reuters World News, BBC World Edition and )New York Times International News).

It works a little like a tag cloud, but so much better. You can also click on an image in the 10x10 grid to see the recent headlines and the click through to read the article. Very cool!

The creator of 10x10, Jonathan J. Harris, also created a version of this to celebrate Yahoo's 10 year birthday.

This sort of thing would be great on a company intranet too. Anyone out there got an API we can mash?

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Monday 19 December 2005

New twist in the Wikipedia debate

The debate about the quality of Wikipedia content isn't quite dead just yet with heavy weight scientific magazine, Nature, claiming that the wiki-based collaborative knowledgebase is no better or worse that the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Andrew Mitchell also reports that information professional magazine, Online Currents, makes "the excellent point that not all print publications are error or bias free".

However, the really important point, is made by "Michael Twidale, an information scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who says that Wikipedia's strongest suit is the speed at which it can updated, a factor not considered by Nature's reviewers."

So, when we criticise either social software or traditional media, what we really have to think about is what kind of information trade off are we willing to accept? For an alternative perspective, have a look at this 2004 Factiva whitepaper (PDF) that "considers the quality, availability and value of information on free Web sites, fee-based Web sites and value-added information services".

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A few more blogs

A few more blogs from a couple more of the people who joined us for lunch last week:

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Wednesday 14 December 2005

Time, money and technology-driven productivity?

Ross Gittins writes an interesting opinion piece in today's SMH about how we're trading more of our hours for money - but at what personal cost?

Gittins talks about the oppourtunity costs associated with money and time. He makes an interesting point that we should think about from a knowledge worker and technology perspective:

"Much technological advancement, including the growing number of 'mod cons' in the home, is intended to save time. But while it raises our productivity - the amount we're able to produce or get done in an hour - it rarely leaves us with time on our hands."

Apparently compared to the 1830's, 1 hour's work today is worth 25 times what is was then but we still work as much if not more.

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Pizza, salad and a side of blogging

We had a great first get together of our very informal enterprise blogging and social software interest group yesterday. Over some excellent pizzas and salads at GPO Sydney we talked about our experiences and interests in this area. In particular there was a lot of discussion about the barriers to greater adoption of these technologies by corporate Australia, such as:

  • Technophobia - there is a lot of tech jargon floating around and overlapping terms (e.g. RSS, XML, feeds, etc) that puts people off
  • Overstated bad publicity about public Weblogs damaging the reputation of blogs generally
  • Lack of awareness of the value, benefits and drivers for businesses adopting these social technologies

However despite all this, our feeling is that as Australia typically lags behind the US by a few years we predict that the time is right for this to change in 2006.

In the meantime we're all looking forward to meeting up again next year to keep this conversation going and to hopefully flush out some local success stories. So if you're in an Australian organisation that's blogging or using a wiki etc internally and are prepared to tell your story, get in touch and we'll invite you to lunch with us next year.

PS Both Trevor Cook and Ross Dawson both joined us for lunch and you can check out their predictions and comments. Unfortunately Frank Arrigo couldn't make it but has still added to our online conversation.

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Saturday 10 December 2005

Another E&Y KM Case Study

I know that a lot of people stumble on to my blog and Website from search engines because they are looking for case studies on Ernst & Young's (E&Y) approach to knowledge management. Well, you might be interested in the new case study (PDF) from Factiva on how they have integrated their electronic news resources into KWeb, E&Y's global knowledge intranet.

The case study I'm pleased to say is written from the perspective of the Australian E&Y practice and features Brigitte Wharton, the local Knowledge Deployment Manager.

PS Some of Factiva's other case studies and whitepapers are also worth a look.

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Social network technologies

The last edition of Image & Data Manager (IDM) magazine for the year arrived during the week and if you're a subscriber look out for my article on social network technologies (Small world!, pp.56-57). If you're not very familiar with this kind of thing, it provides an introduction to the application of social network concepts to the business world, including networking sites, business blogs and social network analysis (SNA) software.

As usual I'll post a copy of this article in my IDM archive at a later date.

Talking of networks and networking, Matt Moore has helped to get a few us together for an informal lunch this coming Tuesday to chew the fat on the use of social software within the enterprise in Australia. We're hear a lot more about blogging and social media outside the firewall, so we hope to uncover the state of play inside the firewall.

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Wednesday 7 December 2005

Making Project Management Education Happen – On Line!

I completed my Master of Business & Technology (MBT) at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) this year and here is a great case study (PDF) that explores the teaching and learning approaches used in the course and the benefits of the Project Management facilitators working as a community of practice in the MBT program. This paper also contains a good example of a virtual team charter, used to set expectations, allocate roles and define communications channels. The role of the facilitator's community of practice also fits in with my own ideas about a "collaborative ecology", that builds on Evaristo and Munkvold's collaborative infrastructure.

BTW Educational settings are a great place to find leading practice virtual teams in action - I suspect because the objective is learning, participants are less likely to skip recommended steps and activities than when operating in business context.

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Getting from hypertext to hypermedia

I haven't visited Jon Udell's blog for a while, so it was a happy chance that his most recent post deals with an issue I've been waiting for someone to tackle - how to hyperlink multimedia like we already do with hypertext. What's the point you might ask? Well, to quote Udell:

"In my earlier experiments with MP3 sound bites I showed how seemingly-opaque and statically-served audio files can be made link-addressable, and can therefore be quoted from in situ. Composing on-the-fly remixes is one of the nice benefits that fall out of this approach, but the larger goal is to bring the social effects we see at work in the textual blogosophere into the realm of audio. Linking and quotation drive discovery and shared discourse, but media formats, players, and hosting environments are notoriously hostile to linking and quotation, and I'd really like to see that change."

Udell takes advantage of Google Video's switch from VLC to Flash a couple of months ago to experiment with arbitrary clipping. However, I think concept rather than the technique is important - particularly his idea that:

  • Every media player should also be, at least potentially, an authoring tool as well.
  • Every piece of published media content should afford, at least potentially, a canonical address - indeed, a whole family of them.

Yes, yes, yes I say!

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Tuesday 6 December 2005

IT Trends - laptops, wireless and skills

Gartner have identified six (more?) IT trends that will have significant impact on people, business and the IT industry. To be honest three trends caught my attention:

  • By 2008, 10 percent of companies will require employee-purchased notebooks.
  • By 2010, 30 percent of U.S. homes will use only cellular or Internet telephony.
  • The job market for IT specialists will shrink 40 percent by 2010.

The first two points just reinforce some of the issues that many others, including myself (e.g. The Intranet Imperative and In The Know And On the Move), have been raising about the impact of consumer driven innovation on business IT. Of course, its going to be interesting to see how IT departments in large organisations deal with the move from SOEs to wireless and diverse operating environments (WDOEs?). Or is it just easier to go thin-client?

However there is an interesting local link in respect to the last point as a group of local business representatives recently had a meeting to discuss the future IT skills requirements of Australian industry. Victoria Police chief information officer Valda Berzins apparently commented that despite the public perception of there being no jobs in IT, there are growing opportunities in Australia for people with technical and business IT skills.

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